What Higher Ed Job Seekers Want Now

 Marketing Director   September 7, 2021  Job Seeker Survey

Continued concerns about workplace health and safety, combined with challenges in finding candidates for job openings, have put pressure on higher education employers to address the changing needs and expectations of job seekers and current staff and faculty.

Earlier this year, HERC conducted its annual job seeker survey to understand their experience looking for work in higher education and to identify how HERC can best support them during the process of finding, landing, and keeping their ideal position. This year’s survey included additional questions about the impact of COVID-19 and the increasing importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in work policies.

Given today’s volatile job market, we thought it was important for job seekers to know that many share the same priorities and values when it comes to their careers in higher education. We learned that job seekers are looking for employers that support career advancement, a healthy work-life balance, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.

Who Responded

The survey had 2,722 respondents, who reported these demographics:

  • 67% hold master’s degrees or higher
  • 40% are people of color
  • 12% are individuals with disabilities
  • 67% are women; 28% are men
  • 1% are ages 18 to 21; 34% are 22 to 37; 37% are 38 to 53; and 27% are over 53

46% of survey respondents reported being staff and 56% indicated they are faculty. Some individuals reported being both staff and faculty.

Job Searching Now

Infographic: TOP REASONS: If you are searching for a new job, why? (Select top 3 reasons)

Of those reporting that they were searching for a new job, the top reasons for doing so were career advancement (31%), seeking higher salary (31%), work-life satisfaction (20%), dissatisfied with current workplace culture (15%), and seeking remote/flexibility options (15%). Higher education staff and faculty reported the same top three reasons, but with differing prioritization.

Job Advancement

Infographic: Do you expect to advance in your career at your current institution or with a new employer? 11% - Current institution, 56% - New Institution, 33% - Unsure

When asked where job seekers expected to advance in their careers, more than half of survey respondents reported at a new institution (56%) and the next largest group of respondents were unsure (33%).  This result indicates that most survey respondents were not interested in or did not see opportunities for internal growth and promotion within their current institutions.


Infographi: As it relates to your career and the COVID-19 pandemic, please rate hwo well each statement describes you and yoru experience with your higher education institution.

Job seekers reported strong confidence in some of the support provided by employers as it relates to their careers and the COVID-19 pandemic. Job seekers’ confidence fell when rating their employer’s support of employee needs and dipped even more when considering their employer’s prioritization of employees’ mental health.

Learning about what job seekers need and want is crucial to our member institutions who are committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the higher education workforce. We encourage you to participate in our annual job seeker survey (our next one will be conducted in early 2022) and our monthly quick poll on LinkedIn (follow HERC on LinkedIn).